Grrr! Failing Up

What is it about our culture that promotes mediocrity?

Very few industries today are singled out for promoting people based on merit. Very few executives, pop stars, actors or journalists deserve to be where they are today.

The thing about this life is, somebody has to say "yes."

No matter how good you are, somebody in a position of power has to say "yes."

No matter how much you want something or how dedicated you are to something, that "yes" is out of your hands.

It's as simple as that.

If you watch TV on a regular basis, you probably know you could read a teleprompter better than many of the anchors you're watching. You probably know that the spokesman or woman on your favorite cable news channel who happens to be talking about the industry you work in really doesn't understand it any better than you do.

You probably know more about sports than the guy on ESPN or on your local television station.

You're probably smarter than most of the people who got into the college you had your heart set on but couldn't get into.

If you listen to music, or more accurately, if you attend a live concert where some megabucks pop star is lip synching because she can't sing nearly as well as the music companies would have you believe, you might be thinking you can do it better.

If there's one thing "American Idol" has demonstrated, good singers don't have to hide behind the technology of a sound studio or the talents of producers who know how to use that technology.

Models are airbrushed. Radio voices are filtered. Sports stars are trained by dozens of professionals using state-of-the-art equipment, or worse, they're taking performance-enhancing drugs. Actors do dozens of takes of the same scene until they get it right. Your boss is taking credit for your work, and her boss is taking credit for her work, and so on.

The chief of police is corrupt and everybody knows it. The mayor is incompetent and everybody knows it. The Wall Street analyst is getting kickbacks or having his house wired by vendors of the company he works for, and everybody knows it.

The dichotomy here is that for most people, getting to that "yes" takes so much sweat equity that after finally obtaining it, they'll do as little as possible to set themselves apart from the pack.

They figure, "Finally, I can coast." And they do. It's bittersweet, isn't it? But nobody's doing anything about it.


Because the people who are awarded that "yes" based on merit are too busy doing.

They are so busy tending to the task at hand that the coasters below them can skate along unnoticed. The truly successful people are too busy being successful to recognize the incompetence around them.

Overachievers know that they can make up for the slackers, so they do.

And that leaves the hard-workers to fend for themselves and to claw their way up. It forces them to find innovative ways around the people in their way. It forces them to create their own opportunities.

Someone really smart once said that "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

That's not a bad way of looking at things. So stay prepared. Don't give up hope, but at the same time don't just hope.

You have to do something about whatever it is that's making you sick in your career. It really is up to you. Tell yourself "yes," and the guy with the green light will have no choice but to repeat after you.

And that's your Grrr! for today.

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